Item Details

Modern Japanese “Role Language” (Yakuwarigo): fictionalised orality in Japanese literature and popular culture

Issue: Vol 5 No. 1 (2011) Fictionalising orality

Journal: Sociolinguistic Studies

Subject Areas: Gender Studies Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/sols.v5i1.37


An emerging field of research in Japanese linguistics examines the association between types of characters portrayed and their spoken language features in fiction, popular culture (e.g., manga [comic books] and anime [animated cartoons]), and beyond (the Internet). Sets of spoken language features (vocabulary and grammar) and phonetic characteristics (intonation and accent patterns) psychologically associated with particular character types are termed “role language” (yakuwarigo) in Author 2 (2003). This study seeks to introduce non-Japanese readers to the expanding research on role language in Japanese. It gives an overview of this new field, drawing on key literature (Author 2, 2003, 2008b) and related research on literature, popular culture, and Internet resources in Japanese and other languages. Through an examination of role language and its origins in Japanese, it will be shown that role language is used to characterise minor characters in a story in order to highlight the main characters, which require more elaborate rendering. Analyses of some established character types are also discussed and crosslinguistic studies of role language in Japanese and other languages are reviewed. Similarities and differences across languages are noted, as well as possible problems role language poses for learners of Japanese.

Author: Mihoko Teshigawara, Satoshi Kinsui

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